Topix announced by James Zee

"Catholic comic book now on sale"

A brand-new wholesome comic book hit the stands in early 1954, according to Sydney's Catholic Weekly on 11 February 1954 and Melbourne's Catholic Advocate on 25 February 1954.11"New publication on Sale Throughout Australia" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 11 February 1954: 7. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147162713>...   This is a product of its time, battling against the threat of comic books during the moral panic and censorship of the 1950s.

Topix was, the papers insist, a decent answer to the other rubbish on the bookshelves, with artwork of the highest quality and absorbing interest. "It's purpose is fivefold":

"To offer clean, wholesome entertainment for boys and girls of all ages."

 

"To provide an antidote to the many unsuitable comics which are now on the market and which find their way into many Catholic homes."

 

"To satisfy a natural demand among children for easy-to-read picture stories."

 

"To provide catechetical instruction in visual form."

 

"To assist Catholic educators by portraying the great events of history and picturing the lives of civilisation's benefactors—its saints and sholars, its scientists and artists, its explorers and statesmen."

 

It's wasn't a new concept. Timeless Topix was first published 1942 by the Catechetical Guild Education Society in St. Paul Minneapolis in the United States. In 1945, the Advocate spruiked new French and Spanish editions, with the original English-language edition selling 400,000 copies in the US and Canada.22See "General Talk" Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.: 1868 - 1954) 14 November 1945: 11. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172224037>. The US...  

In December 1948 the Advocate reprinted across three issues "an exposé of communist tactics" titled Is This To-morrow. Sourced from the US Catechetical Guild, it explaining in comic form "how communists, using tried and tested methods, could cause revolutionary chaos in a democracy".33See "Is This To-morrow" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 16 December 1948: 3. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146661026>....  

The US Topix was not distributed in Australia, but copies were available on subscription from Australian sources.44"Letters to the Editor" Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA: 1889-1954) 28 August 1953: 10. Web. 16 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article167090611>....   The Advocate also reports availability of a British reprint of the life of Pope Pius XII.55"'Comic' Life of Pope Pius XII" Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.: 1868-1954) 10 April 1952: 10. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172524092>....   Possibly the 1952 transformation of the US series into a magazine, rather than a comic, format prompted planing for the Australian edition two years later.

Topix included comics reprinted from the US parent series (from up to a decade earlier) or other US publishers, including Fawcett. Australian artists provided some short comics and covers, including Carl Lyon, John L. Curtis and Tony Sheridan.

The first issue may be rare, as the promotions report just 40,000 copies of the first issue distributed in Australia and New Zealand. It's not clear what the paper means by its claim that "arrangements have been made to meet all demands for extra copies". In March, the Catholic Weekly reported 'record sales' for the first issue as returns from Victoria showed that 92 per cent of the first issue was sold out in that state "so quickly that many children were unable to buy one". However, copies were still available from the publishers in Sydney and from the distributors, Gordon and Gotch.66"Record Sales Of "Topix"" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 11 March 1954: 1. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147162548>....  

Either way, by the second issue, the Catholic Weekly was claiming success, with the less than glowing "satisfactory sales". "In areas where teachers mentioned the new magazine," the paper says, "it quickly sold out….St. Brendan's College at Yeppoon near Rockhampton in Central Queensland ordered three dozen copies after the students had seen an advance issue."77"'Topix' Is A Hit" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 18 February 1954: 1. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147156052>....   A week later, a range of Catholic teachers had been rounded up to praise the comic, generally as a 'god-send'.88"Educationalists Hail 'Topix' as 'God-Send'" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 25 February 1954: 2. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147157340>....  

Circulation of the fifth issue was up 10,000 copies on the first issue.99"Advertising" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 1 July 1954: 14 (Magazine Section). Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147163577>....  

However, a December update suggests the sales growth was not so rosey. "'Topix' has had an uphill struggle in a highly competitive field. For most kiddies the adventures of space pilots, master magicians, mighty mice and a cranky duck with three delinquent nephews have a greater appeal than real-life stories of men and women who have shown incredible bravery and fortituted in the cause of Christ. Still, 'Topix' has been a success and we are grateful to the thousands of good parents who helped to make it so…"1010"About Ourselves" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 23 December 1954: 2. Web. 16 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146798649>....  

These Catholic newspaper reports provide useful information about the specific publication dates of early fortnightly issues, with the first issue probably released 11 Feburary and the second on 25 February 1954.1111"Advertising" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 25 February 1954: 7. Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147157377>....   The fifth issue was on sale around 8 April 1954. The 11th issue was on sale 1 July 1954.1212"Advertising" Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1942-1954) 1 July 1954: 14 (Magazine Section). Web. 15 Mar 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147163577>....   Later issues became monthly.

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